Sunday, January 12, 2014

Seared Alaskan Halibut with Swiss Chard & Beurre Blanc

While a nice piece of Alaskan halibut is always a treat, adding a rich beurre blanc (white butter sauce) really sends it over the top. I'm happy to say I've mastered a perfect beurre blanc while in culinary school, and while it does take a little time, it's really not that hard to do. Definitely worth giving it a try as it pairs well with all fish and seafood. The Swiss chard in this dish adds an earthiness to balance out the richness of the sauce, plus it's beautiful and grows really well in Alaska. This is the kind of meal that provides the perfect bite: buttery richness of the sauce, savory tenderness of the halibut and slight crunch of the Swiss chard..all in one forkful. ~Patti
1 pound halibut, no skin, cut into 4 fillets
6-8 cups Swiss chard, chopped fine
1/2 shallot, minced
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Beurre blanc:
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cubed into 1 ounce pieces
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
4 ounces dry white wine
1/2 shallot, minced
1 teaspoon white pepper
salt to taste

Serves 4

Ruby Red Swiss chard growing in Audrey's garden up in Fairbanks. 

What is Swiss Chard? Swiss chard is a mild, tender vegetable that is often overlooked. It is worth a try, however. Colorful and tasty, Swiss chard is similar to spinach when it comes to taste and ease of preparation plus it's full of nutritional goodness. Swiss chard is related to the beet, and comes in a variety of colors. The leafy portion is always a nice green, while the stalk can be white, bright yellow, or a ruby red. If you are growing your own, or buy it from a farmer's market, it is not unusual to see all three colors packaged together as 'Rainbow Chard'.

Start your beurre blanc by placing vinegar, wine and shallots into a small pot. Simmer on low to medium heat and cook until reduced to about 2 teaspoons (about 10-15 minutes). Then, turn down heat to low and drop in cubes of butter, a few at a time and whisk. Continue whisking in butter cube by cube, allowing butter to melt into sauce until all your butter is incorporated. 

Whisking is the key here, along with using cold butter, which keeps the temperature under control. Not whisking can cause your sauce to 'break' - continuous whisking is essential.

Sauce should be thick and smooth when done. Remove from heat and strain into heat-proof bowl (a glass bowl works great). I used a little hand-held strainer, just something to catch all the shallot pieces.

As you can see, the sauce is glossy and smooth and if you taste it, it should be delicious! It needs to stay warm until you serve it though. So just set the bowl over a pot of hot water on the stove. It should rest at about 120 degrees.

Salt and pepper your halibut fillets. Heat oil in cast iron skillet until almost smoking - you want it HOT! This prevents sticking and also cooks the fish fast so it is crisp on the outside and tender and flaky on the inside. Cook about 5-7 minutes on one side, then flip and cook about 4 more minutes until fish is done. 

Cooking time can vary a few minutes depending on the thickness of your fish. Internal temperature should be 135 degrees. Only flip once and you'll get a nice golden color. If you cook fish on a regular basis, invest in a nice fish spatula like the one shown. They are metal and perfect for flipping fish without causing damage to the fillet. I love mine.

While your fillets are cooking, put a little butter in a skillet, add shallots and saute for a minute. Add in the Swiss chard and saute over medium high heat for just a minute or two. You want some crunch, so don't over do it. Then squeeze in a little lemon. 

To serve, spoon some of your beurre blanc onto a plate, add Swiss chard, and then place your halibut on top. Drizzle on a little more of the sauce and garnish with a sprinkling of scallions and some of the diced up Swiss chard stems. 

Note: buerre blanc is a base sauce - you can add dill and lemon, or peppercorns and thyme...whatever goes with your dish, be creative!

Here I am with my "chicken" halibut I caught in Prince William Sound. It's called a chicken halibut because it's small, about 40 pounds. Halibut can get as large as 300+ pounds. 

My husband, Scott, filleting our catch in the port of Whittier, Alaska. Audrey's in the background taking pics.

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